Tiffany and Ricardo Puentes show off some of the accessories available at Mens Bodega in Brighton. Jonathan Castner for BizWest

Brighton couple brightens men’s attire

The world is getting a little more dapper as cufflinks, tie pins, bow ties and pocket squares make a major comeback, and local and online retailers Ricardo and Tiffany Puentes are riding that wave to success.

What started out as a hobby has turned into a full-time job for the duo.

The owners of Mens Bodega sell men’s accessories internationally through their website and locally through their Brighton retail location, 113 E. Bridge St.

Neither had a background in retail. Ricardo worked in finance and Tiffany was in real estate.

They fell into it by chance. Ricardo, who dressed up for work every day, wanted to spruce up his boring dark suits. He searched online and found a pair of cufflinks he really liked. The problem was that they were only sold in bulk out of China. He decided that they were cheap enough that he would buy the lot and sell the rest on eBay, Tiffany said.

“They flew off the shelves. Nobody was selling stuff geared for just men,” she said. Nordstrom and other department stores do sell men’s accessories, but there was nobody specializing in men’s accoutrements online.

“So he started buying more things and selling them online,” she said, “and we realized it was making more than I was.”

Mens Bodega is capitalizing on the trend toward more formal attire, including bow ties and pocket squares. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest

When her real estate company began laying people off, Tiffany voluntarily left to run the business full-time out of the couple’s basement. In January, the Puenteses decided the shop was taking over their house and they went in search of an office location.

“We opted for this amazing retail space. We didn’t have to do anything to build it out. It was perfectly decorated like it was designed for us,” she said. “We said, ‘OK, let’s do the retail route.’ ”

In July, Ricardo quit his full-time job to run the business.

The couple loves being “part of a small town. It is good for business and amazing to be part of that growth,” she said. “Brighton is such an up-and-coming area.”

Tiffany is the first to admit that Mens Bodega doesn’t get a ton of foot traffic but, behind the scenes, it is setting the men’s accessory market on fire. On the day Tiffany spoke to BizWest, the company already had logged more than $500 in U.S. sales – and it was only 9 a.m.

Mens Bodega is just as likely to ship items to Iraq and Europe as it is to the United States. The Puenteses would like to have a bigger presence in Canada, so that’s their next move. They also would like to get into the wholesale market.

The company sells designer items alongside its own line of cufflinks, tie clips, lapel pins, basic ties and pocket squares. They realized they could come up with designs that were just as functional and attractive for less money than some of the designer options they were selling on their website.

They browsed men’s fashion magazines and researched what was hot in major cities across the country. They were in search of what men actually were wearing and what they weren’t. They wanted to find the hottest trends and then piggyback onto those trends.

Their best-selling tie clip is a simple brushed silver option, but they also sell sports, movie and comic book-themed items. Who doesn’t want a set of Voldemort postage-stamp cufflinks or a tie featuring the logo of the Star Wars rebel alliance?

“We want to keep our price point relatively low on our designs because if someone wants a high-end tie clip, they are not going to go to us. They will look at Nordstrom and spend money on a high-end tie clip,” Tiffany said. “When they want something in the $15 to $20 range, then we will come into play.”

She stressed that cufflinks, tie clips and pocket squares aren’t just for proms or weddings anymore. Companies that were trending more casual have suddenly reinstituted dress codes and today’s men want to snazz up their boring outfits just as much as women do.

Mens Bodega also sells gift items for men, such as bottle openers and fancy pens that are made from items such as baseball bats that were used in real Major League games.

The holidays are a great time for Mens Bodega. The couple usually sells four times their average through November and December. This is the first year they have had a brick-and-mortar location to sell from for the holidays.

“We never expected this to grow the way that it did,” Tiffany said. “When we set out to do this, we thought it would be nice to have extra income for vacations. We never expected to quit our jobs and run this as a full-time venture.”

They also never expected to get into the design and manufacture of their own products.

Mens Bodega sells through the Amazon Marketplace. The biggest obstacle to that is with international shipping. When you sell through Amazon, they expect customers to receive their orders within five to seven days.

“You are expected to meet that delivery window,” she said, which is not easy, especially when shipping overseas.

She added that most people around the world do not expect packages to arrive within a week when they order products from other countries. She and her husband just do their best to make their customers happy and know that good customer service will bring those customers back again and again.

The world is getting a little more dapper as cufflinks, tie pins, bow ties and pocket squares make a major comeback, and local and online retailers Ricardo and Tiffany Puentes are riding that wave to success.

What started out as a hobby has turned into a full-time job for the duo.

The owners of Mens Bodega sell men’s accessories internationally through their website and locally through their Brighton retail location, 113 E. Bridge St.

Neither had a background in retail. Ricardo worked in finance and Tiffany was in real estate.

They fell into it by chance. Ricardo, who dressed up for work every day, wanted to spruce up his boring dark suits. He searched online and found a pair of cufflinks he really liked. The problem was that they were only sold in bulk out of China. He decided that they were cheap enough that he would buy the lot and sell the rest on eBay, Tiffany said.

“They flew off the shelves. Nobody was selling stuff geared for just men,” she said. Nordstrom and other department stores do sell men’s accessories, but there was nobody specializing in men’s accoutrements online.

“So he started buying more things and selling them online,” she said, “and we realized it was making more than I was.”

Mens Bodega is capitalizing on…